Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 16, 2014

Note: The following video contains graphic images and is Not Safe for Work (NSFW).

* Caribbean: Cuba and the Dominican Republic joined three other nations including Honduras in their World Trade Organization dispute against Australia’s strong anti-tobacco laws.

* Bolivia: Bolivian President Evo Morales personally handed over documents to the International Court of Justice as part of the landlocked country’s case seeking to regain a coastline from Chile.
* Argentina: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a case next Monday regarding unpaid debts from the Argentine government’s massive $82 billion default in 2001.

* Haiti: According to Amnesty International, “leading human rights activist” Pierre Esperance received a threat implying that he “won’t escape” the next assassination attempt against him.
Video Source– AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – GlobalPost; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; USA TODAY; The Washington Post

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 15, 2014

* Brazil: According to a researcher from Brazil, the obesity rate among children in that South American country is an “extremely high” 39%.
* Puerto Rico: The Puerto Rican Supreme Court struck down a teacher pension reform law that the commonwealth's government said was necessary in order to improve the island’s woeful economy.

* Venezuela: Venezuelan officials claimed that there was no political motive behind the kidnapping of TV news network Globovision journalist Nairobi Pinto who was freed eight days after she was her abducted in Caracas.

* Cuba: For the first time since 1983, France’s foreign minister visited Cuba and reportedly discussed with President Raul Castro ways to “push forward our relations in the areas of culture, education, economics and politics.”

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (“Brazil is known as home of the perfect beach body - but in reality, 48% of the population is overweight and 16% obese, a rise of 5 percentage points in just five years. At the current rate, the average Brazilian could soon be heavier than the average American.”)
Online Sources – Voice of America; GlobalPost; Fox News Latino; Reuters

Monday, April 14, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 14, 2014

* Chile: More than 10,000 people were evacuated and at least eleven were killed after a massive fire destroyed hundreds of residences in the port city of Valparaiso.
* Dominican Republic: A recent report found that “arbitrary” interpretations of a controversial 2013 Dominican high court ruling has led to increased discrimination against children of Haitian background trying to attend school.
* Argentina: In the latest chapter of the diplomatic tug-of-war over the Falkland Islands, Argentina’s government blasted Britain for holding military exercises at the disputed archipelago.
* Mexico: Thirty-six people died as a result of bus that crashed into a truck yesterday on a highway in Veracruz state.
Video Source– ITN via YouTube (The major fire that hit Valparaiso occurred nearly two weeks after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the northern coast of Chile.)

Online Sources – Voice of America; Reuters; Prensa Latina; The Latin Americanist; The Washington Post

Friday, April 11, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 11, 2014

* Central America: A new U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime report concluded that Central America is the world’s most violent region with Honduras leading the pack with a whopping 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

* Brazil: Drought conditions in Brazil have been blamed for an increase in the price of coffee to its highest point since February 2012.

* Nicaragua: An earthquake measuring at least 6.1 on the Richter scale struck off the western coast of Nicaragua that reportedly did not cause any major damage.

* Colombia: Colombian police uncovered over seven tons of cocaine with a street value of about $250 million hidden in packages bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (Video uploaded in November 2013).

Online Sources –; The Guardian; Reuters; The Washington Post

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 10, 2014

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro and opposition figures are expected to meet today in live televised discussions that could help quell some of the political unrest that has claimed 39 lives over the past two months.
* South America: Three of Argentina’s five main labor unions are planning a major strike on Thursday while several thousand people in Sao Paulo marched on Wednesday calling for workplace reforms.
* Cuba: Cuban officials are reportedly “concerned” over the hunger strike undertaken by Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Havana since 2010.
* Latin America: According to the World Bank, economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to slow down this year to approximately 2.3%.
Video Source– euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – Miami Herald; Tico Times; BusinessWeek; LAHT; GlobalPost

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 9, 2014

* Argentina: An Argentine court sentenced ten people to up to twenty-two years in prison regarding the 2002 kidnapping and “sexual exploitation” of a missing young woman named Marita Veron.

* Mexico: Death row inmate Ramiro Hernandez is running out of legal options and today he will likely become the second Mexican national to be executed in Texas this year.
* Cuba: Sen. Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees USAID, blasted the administrator of that agency for a “cockamamie” failed social network project launched in Cuba.

* Haiti: A new report found that the percentage of Haitian earthquake survivors living in refugee camps has plummeted by 91% though the study notes the “phenomenon of new families moving into camps and families splitting and occupying more tents constitutes a worrying trend.

Video Source– The Daily Beast via YouTube (Susana Trimarco, the mother of missing Argentine woman Marita Veron, has become an activist against human trafficking as she continues the search for her “disappeared” daughter.) 

Online Sources – BBC News; The Latin Americanist; ABC News; CBS News; Miami Herald

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nude Twitter Protest Against Venezuelan Gang Assault (Updated)

Venezuelan government officials met on Tuesday night with members of the opposition in order to negotiate a potential end to nearly two months of unrest.  (Update: Both sides reportedly agreed to hold "formal talks" that could start as soon as this Thursday).

While plans are being made for the upcoming of the discussions, anti-government activists continue to voice their complaints against the regime led by President Nicolas Maduro.  One of the most unique protests took part recently in response to allegations of human rights abuses.

Using the hashtag #MejorDesnudosQue (roughly translated #BetterToBeNudeThan), the campaign began on April 4th when a team of Venezuelan ad executives uploaded semi-nude photos of themselves. The previous day, images emerged of a young man at the University of Central Venezuela (UCV) who was forced to disrobe and sit naked on the grass while masked gang members assaulted him. (Video of this incident can be seen at the top of this post).
“When I saw the video (of the nude young man) it hit me very hard and that’s when I came up with this idea,” said ad agency executive Ricardo Cie.

“My friends and family where receptive and they generally commented that the photos where a distinct way to peacefully and intelligently protest,” said one of Cie’s workmates, Eliana Mora Golding.

“Generally nobody was offended though we did receive negative comments,” she added.
Between the start of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and Monday the hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter and mentioned over 201,000 times on that social media network.
Cie noted he and sixteen of his colleagues opted to do the campaign via Twitter since “there is an absence of Venezuelan TV channels that are showing the reality on the streets.”

Among those who have spoken out in favor of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and it’s related hashtag #DesnudosConLaUCV (#NudeWithTheUCV) is Cuban blogger and opposition activists Yoani Sanchez.  She claimed that authoritarian regimes believe that “undressing their opponents constitutes one of the repressive practices they most enjoy” but the #MejorDesnudosQue idea may have changed this perspective:

Daily Headlines: April 8, 2014

* Latin America: Researchers warned that the chikungunya virus that has already been detected in several Caribbean countries could soon cause a “catastrophic” epidemic in the Americas.
* Brazil: More than 2000 construction workers at Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Park have been on strike since last Thursday as part of the latest delay to affect preparations for the 2016 Summer Games.

* Mexico: The mayor of Tampico, Mexico believes that rival drug gangs attempting to “settle scores” may be behind the deaths of at least eighteen people over the weekend in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.
* Cuba: According to a Havana Consulting Group report, the number of U.S. tourists visiting Cuba continues to grow in the first three months of this year despite a decades-long trade embargo against the island.

Video Source– YouTube user CARPHACampus (The chikungunya virus is spread by the same Aeges infected mosquitos that can carry dengue.  Victims endure severe joint pains that could lead to permanent disability and, in some cases, death).

Online Sources –; GlobalPost; NET Website; Dominican Today; The Guardian

Monday, April 7, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 7, 2014

* Costa Rica: Historian and outside candidate Luis Guillermo Solís validated his first round victory in February by easily becoming Costa Rican president-elect after winning in a virtual one-man runoff yesterday.

* Cuba: The recent revelation that U.S. government helped create a “Cuban Twitter” network could hinder the efforts of opposition activists and independent bloggers on the island.

* Argentina: Umma Azul became the first child of a lesbian couple to be baptized by the Catholic Church in Argentina in a ceremony held in the Cathedral of Cordoba.

* Mexico: Renown author Gabriel García Marquez could leave a Mexico city hospital tomorrow and over a week since the Nobel laureate was treated by doctors for a lung and urinary infection.

Video Source– teleSUR via YouTube (Nearly 1.3 million voters opted for Costa Rican president-elect Luis Guillermo Solís in Sunday’s runoff election despite a high abstention rate).

Online Sources – The Guardian; Reuters; Prensa Latina; The Latin Americanist; Tico Times

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Weekender – The Beast of the Rails

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.  
A group of at least fifteen disabled Hondurans known by the Spanish-language acronym of AMIREDIS have planned to trek through Mexico with the goal of highlighting abuses committed against Central American migrants.  The men may use different assistive devices but all of them became disabled while attempting to trek northbound on the dangerous rail journey on a lengthy freight train known simply as La Bestia (“The Beast”).

My accident was in 2005,” said protester José Luis Hernández to the Animal Politico website.  “I had been riding twenty days on the train and hiding from police and gangs trying to assault us.  My exhaustion beat me and I fainted.  I fell below the train’s wheels and one of my arms, a leg and three fingers on the other arm were cut off,” he mentioned.

The marchers petitioned last month for visas from Mexican migratory authorities in order to travel to Mexico City and attempt to talk with President Enrique Peña Nieto. Furthermore, the AMIREDIS group was scheduled to speak to legislators on Wednesday in Mexico City and voice their concerns regarding how Central American migrants are often the targets of death, extortion and kidnapping from drug gangs and corrupt police.

However, they have yet to receive permission to legally travel through Mexico and have seen their funds dwindle down.  As a result, members of the group are strongly considering making their journey on the train that caused their respective serious injuries.

“My leg became amputated after riding on La Bestia and it’s a memory I would prefer not to remember,” said AMIREDIS spokesman Normal Saúl Varela.  “But it may be necessary to ride on it again in order to obtain our goal, which is to speak to President Peña Nieto and that he sees with his own eyes the affects of riding that train,” he added.

A 2010 Amnesty International report found that “migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses.”  The report cited an incident that reportedly occurred on the La Bestia line when a female migrant was forced off the train by Mexican Federal Police, had her belongings stolen and was forced to walk on foot where she was subsequently raped by an armed gang.

Several documentaries have been made focusing on the perilous trip on La Bestia such as Which Way Home, a film that aired on HBO in 2009.  Below the page break is a documentary in Spanish regarding the journey on La Bestia.  We begin nearly nine minutes into the film with the harrowing images of teenagers in a Mexican hospital recovering from amputations caused by the beastly rail trip:        

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 3, 2014

* Chile: No major damages or casualties have been reported as a result of several strong aftershocks following a magnitude-8.2 earthquake on Tuesday off the northern Chilean coast that caused six deaths. 

* Argentina: Argentine President Cristina Kirchner introduced a new currency note featuring a map of the Falkland Islands and accused Britain of trying to turn the disputed archipelago into a “North Atlantic Treaty Organization military base.”

* Cuba: A new report alleged that the U.S. government helped create a now-defunct “Cuban Twitter” social network with the goal of causing unrest against the ruling Castro regime.

* U.S.: The U.S. and Mexico shared the spoils in a 2-2 tie in the latest chapter of the bitter soccer rivalry between the neighboring countries.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources- Bernama; TIME; The Huffington Post; ABC News

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 2, 2014

* Chile: At least five people died and more than 900,000 residents of Chile’s coastal area were evacuated due to a magnitude-8.2 earthquake that occurred Tuesday night near the northern part of the country.

* U.S.: The White House claimed that over seven million people signed on for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act though it has yet to be revealed how many of them were Latinos.

* Puerto Rico: The acting head of Puerto Rico’s beleaguered police department resigned reportedly so that he can attend to personal issues.

* Mexico: Remittances to Mexico, which serve as the country’s second-largest source of foreign exchange, increased by 7.15% in January and February of this year compared to the same period in 2013.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube (Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency for the Tarapaca, Arica and Parinacota regions following last night's tremor that was also felt in Peru and Bolivia.)

Online Sources- GlobalPost; The Guardian; Voice of America; LAHT; NBC News

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Brazil’s Neymar to Miss World Cup

The head coach of Brazil’s men’s national soccer team has shockingly chosen to exclude Neymar from this summer's World Cup.

“Neymar is not on my list,” said Luis Felipe Scolari this morning amidst audible gasps and screams among stunned members of the Brazilian press.

“Have you seen him play with Barcelona? Rubbish!  He’s wasting his time with them,” exclaimed Big Phil regarding Neymar who has scored nine goals and made over twenty appearances for the famed Spanish club since he joined them roughly nine months ago.

Scolari also blamed the twenty-two-year-old former Santos player for appearing in a Brazilian soft drink commercial where he teaches tourists nonsensical phrases in Portuguese.  (The commercial can be seen in the video at the top of this post).

“That ad was offensive, shameful and a poor example for the children of our great country,” noted Scolari about the ad that is being investigated by Brazilian advertising authorities for “promoting bullying.

Thus far there has been no official response from the two-time South American Footballer of the Year who will be in the starting XI for Barca for today’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg.

Neymar has tallied thirty goals for the senior squad in 2010 though he joined the side after Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup held in South Africa.  He was named as the best player of the 2013 Confederations Cup that was won by Brazil on home soil and coached by Scolari.

Daily Headlines: April 1, 2014

* Venezuela: A Venezuelan military commander claimed that security forces have retaken the city of San Cristóbal though unrest still continues in other major cities where opposition protesters keep demonstrating against the government.

* U.S.: A new report found that children of African-American, Latino and Native American background face greater obstacles in areas like education and health compared to white and Asian minors.

* Panama: A Panamanian law went into effect last week that prohibits the importation of wild animals as part of "circuses, shows, exhibitions, entertainments, audience interactions and similar events."

* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico’s economic woes and high rates of homicide could explain why the island’s population dropped by 3% between April 2010 and July 2013.

Video Source – Associated Press via YouTube (“Masked protesters clashed with police in eastern Caracas on Monday night following a resumption of anti-government protests.”)

Online Sources- Reuters; GlobalPost; LAHT; BBC News

Monday, March 31, 2014

Study: One in Three Young Brazilians Use Condoms

A study released last week found that some Brazilian youth engage in risky sexual and drug practices.

The report from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Federal University of São Paulo or the acronym UNIFESP), 34.1% of 1742 young Brazilians between the age of 14 and 25 either rarely or do not use condoms whenever they engage in sexual intercourse. Of this percentage, a slightly high percentage of young women prefer to not use contraception in comparison to young men (38% compared to roughly 33%).

The Brazilian Health Ministry advises people to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and undesirable pregnancies by using a condom.  As a result, health officials have distributed of millions of free prophylactics through campaigns such as the one in the video at the top of this post.  (About 493 million condoms were given away to young Brazilians in 2011 based on the Health Ministry data).

A March 2013 poll found that 83% of Brazilians favor condom use yet their distribution has come under fire from religious activists who back abstinence.

“In this carnival do not have sex. Keep yourself holy for marriage, because family is good,” said legislator Alexandre Padilha in 2012.

“Despite widespread awareness of condoms, 40% of young people in Brazil do not use condoms in all sexual relations, according to the health department,” mentioned a article from 2012.

Daily Headlines: March 31, 2014

* Brazil: More than 1400 Brazilian police officers and troops occupied Rio de Janeiro's Mare slum complex yesterday as part of the “pacification” program aimed at bringing security to favelas prior to this summer’s World Cup.

* Mexico: Officials claimed that they rescued 370 abandoned migrant children in fourteen Mexican states during a one-week period earlier this month.

* Latin America: According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Latin America is more vulnerable to external economic problems today than prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

* Cuba: Legislators unanimously approved a new law to attract foreign investment by drastically cutting certain taxes.

Video Source – Al Jazeera English via YouTube

Online Sources- GlobalPost; ABC News; Bloomberg; The Globe and Mail